I haven’t done one of these in a while. And I just got a pitch rejected by the eScapist. So, it’s time.

If you’re new around here, I’m a thirty-year-old stay at home dad. I work on a book. Run this site. And then there’s that whole raising a two-year-old that necessitates the staying home thing. It’s not a bad gig. My worst days as a stay at home parent are better than my best days working my old job.

Mid-twenty to forty-years-old is a unique age group. I’m not talking about millennials. No, I’m being more specific. That’s the age that grew up alongside gaming. Younger and games and technology were already incorporated into the culture. Older and you were old enough to do what you wanted without parental units imposing their judgement on your hobby.

If you’re like me you grew up with games.  You were a fledgling girl or boy playing Mario when the Nintendo was itself an infant. An awkward teen as gaming started coming into its own around the Playstation Era. The point is, you and I had to deal with growing up as gaming did the same. We had adults that had to purchase our games. Or we worked an exceedingly limited job pool like paper routes and mowing lawns to get them ourselves. That means for a portion of our lives, we were contending with a guardian’s perception for our games as we were being sculpted into adults.

In the last decade this generation has reached the age of copulation. We’re having our own kids. And that is the interesting state of things. Just ruminate a moment on that. The girls and guys that grew up playing games now have to raise a generation of kids that will no doubt play games.

Let’s do a quick thought experiment. Assume you’re on the older side of this generational spectrum. The ESRB was founded in 1994 almost exclusively because Mortal Kombat. You would’ve been a kid or teen playing Mortal Kombat as parents were beginning their crusade for video game censorship. It’s difficult, but cast your mind back 21 years. Did you play the original Mortal Kombat? Did you have to fight with your parents to own it?

I owned Mortal Kombat because I was raised by an assortment of relatives (not a direct parent) and none really paid attention to me or my interests. Friends of mine weren’t as lucky.
Now imagine your kid is 10 years old. Or 12. Or 14. They ask you for money for Mortal Kombat X or Hotline Miami. You went through this. You’ve played games your entire life. You’re not as detached from the situation as your parents may have been. Do you buy it for them?

When I say our generation is a unique one that is exactly what I’m talking about. We have to reconcile our own love of video games and indeed our own defiance growing up with our parental duties. I played games I “shouldn’t have” and grew up to be a helluva nice guy. Mainstream media would consider it a miracle. No parents AND I played Grand Theft Auto and still managed to become a well adjusted adult. Shocking, I know.
And here’s the soapbox moment. I’m incredibly anti-censorship. It is the role of art to push back against the dominant culture. And yes, video games are art – NPR said so. On the other hand, it’s my job to protect my kid and raise him to be a mature and responsible adult. As he gets older it’s possible these two things might be at odds.

If you need help answering the questions posed above. It comes down to the kid. As a parent you’ll understand if your child can discern between real and make believe. That will be guiding star number one. The second will be to just play the games with them. Parents should spend time with their kids. Period. Whether it’s playing a board game, sports, or a video game. And in that respect you (the gamer generation) are uniquely suited. You’ll have an actual interest in playing games with your kids, unlike our parents who just didn’t understand.